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Hi everyone,

Re. below might be of interest re. this recent discussion on School
Libraries in Nova Scotia that took place in the N.S. Legislature.

Cheers,
Leo

------ Forwarded Message

HANSARD 03/04/05-90
DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS
Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott
Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and
printed by the Queen's Printer.
Available on INTERNET at
http://www.gov.ns.ca/legislature/HOUSE_BUSINESS/hansard.html
First Session
THURSDAY, MAY 19, 2005

EDUC. - SCHOOL LIBRARIES:

PROV. COORDINATOR - APPOINT

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the
Minister of Education. Last week I met with a group of hard-working school
librarians. They're concerned because they don't see any direction coming
from the Department of Education. Every year they see students performing
poorly on literacy tests, but there's no plan to make good use of the best
tool we have when it comes to fighting illiteracy - our school libraries. It
has been proven that students with active libraries and library staff
perform better. The professionals that I met with said there used to be a
provincial coordinator to organize and supervise school libraries, and to
lobby for services, but that position has been cut. My question to the
Minister of Education is very simple, will you undertake the hiring of a new
provincial coordinator with a library background as part of the literacy
strategy that we hear so much about from this government?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that we recognized that
libraries are an important part of students' educational experience. We also
know that they need support. I want to just remind - and perhaps a little
bit of a history lesson for the honourable member and other members of the
House - there has been a change in how you get information in the past
decade. Of course, the big thing now, to be quite frank, is to go on-line.
You know, as well, the federal government provided a considerable amount of
money to put technology into the public schools.
In addition, back in 1996 - particularly at the high school level - the
course outlines were changed and many of the skills that would have been
done by teacher-librarians or people in libraries before, were incorporated
into the roles of regular classroom teachers. The honourable member will
also know that as part of our Learning for Life II strategy, we have
committed to develop a policy on school libraries.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I don't need a history lesson from that
minister. The Department of Education needs to get a handle on this
situation when it comes to literacy. Two months ago on March 8th, I wrote a
letter to the minister asking for some clarification and I'd like to table
that letter at this time. I have not received a response to that letter. I
wrote to the minster asking details about what school libraries are closed,
what libraries are only open part-time and a breakdown of who's staffing
libraries. To date, still no answer. My question to the Minister of
Education is, are you not responding because you don't know the answers and
if so, will you undertake a survey of our school libraries?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I regret that letter has not been responded to yet,
but I want to assure the member that with your question, it will be answered
very soon. I also want to remind the member this government has put 1
million new books into the school and committed 2 million more.
But in answer to your specific questions, yes, I do have that information.
About 95 per cent of the 428 schools in the province have a school library
facility and this covers about 82 per cent of the students.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, it will even be better to get those responses
in writing. It's too bad I had to bring it to the attention of the House.
With all the staff at Trade Mart, that a March 8th letter can't be responded
to unless the critic brings it up here on the floor of the House. There's a
contradiction here, we need to improve literacy and communication in our
province, but many of our school libraries are only open part-time. In fact,
some are absolutely closed. Never being used - in junior highs in
particular. The Department of Education needs to take the lead here. My
question for the minister is, quite simple, when are you going to bring
forward a provincial plan for our school libraries as part of the overall
strategy of literacy for the young men and women in our school system?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, with the funding which was made available for
Learning for Life II: Brighter Futures Together, the department has
committed to develop a policy on framework and guidelines and improved
library resources for all the schools in the province as well as setting
standards for school boards.

HANSARD 03/04/05-85
DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS
Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott
Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and
printed by the Queen's Printer.
Available on INTERNET at
http://www.gov.ns.ca/legislature/HOUSE_BUSINESS/hansard.html
First Session
THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2005

EDUC. - STRATEGY: TEACHER LIBRARIANS - INCREASE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of
Education. I want to talk about a front-line education issue today with the
minister. I point out to the minister, as we have in the past, that in 1990
there were 103 teacher librarians in this province. Today, according to the
latest numbers, there's perhaps a dozen, there might be 13. The Nova Scotia
Federation of Home and School Associations recently called on the department
to staff school libraries with teacher librarians and I emphasize that -
teacher librarians.
We know that when librarians and teachers work together, students perform
better, it's a given fact. Yet we are forced to watch our children continue
to fail literacy tests as school libraries struggle to remain open. My
question for the minister is, why didn't your education strategy which was
so wonderfully announced today include a promise to increase the number of
teacher librarians across this province?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member has raised an important
part of a well functioning school. School libraries provide excellent
educational opportunities and indeed, the plan we announced today will be
giving school libraries more support. As part of the new plan, Brighter
Futures Together, there will be an additional $570,000 invested in school
libraries.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister, as I advised your deputy on
many occasions, let's focus on the issue here. The reality is that some
school boards are relying on volunteers to keep their libraries open and
parents are fundraising for library furniture. What we need here is a
library strategy, a plan to make sure our school libraries are open all day
when the students are in our schools and that we have enough staff to do the
job they have to do as they work with our children and our teachers. So my
question to the Minister of Education is, will you commit to bring forward a
strategy to deal with the crisis facing school libraries about the need of
having librarian teachers in each of our schools?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I had referenced when I answered his first question
the new money that will be invested in school libraries as part of the new
plan. That investment will be used, among other things, to hire a resource
person at the department to work with school boards to develop a policy
framework guideline, improved literacy resource lists and other standards.
In other words, to help schools rebuild and refresh their libraries.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, what students in this province don't need is
another bureaucrat tucked away down here at the Trade Mart building dealing
with a front- line issue of importance to students and teachers across this
province. Too many students are scraping by with their assessment tests. We
know that library access can have a profound impact on student performance.
Yet, last week Stats Can reported Nova Scotia had some of the lowest school
library funding in the country. My question to the minister is, why won't
you ensure - at a bare minimum - that every school library in this province
has the ability to stay open, not with parent volunteers but with teacher
librarians in place?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the honourable member that never in
Nova Scotia's history has it had a formal school library program. They
certainly were better prior to the 1990s, particularly after 1993 when
library resources were stripped and classroom teachers assumed more
responsibility for teaching information, literacy, research and evaluation
skills.
Fortunately, as the honourable member has mentioned and I happened to have
been in a number of them, the elementary schools in this province, the
library resources are greater for the most part than they've ever been.
Fortunately, if you go into elementary classrooms - I know the honourable
member has been - you will see the literacy resource, a lot have gone from
"one room" designated as library, but actually in the classroom and they're
very much more accessible to students.

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